February is my least-favourite month. And not just because the only time I was ever dumped was on Valentine’s Day. Daft cow. Anyway, holiday bills are still flowing in and the Canadian and US governments are all talking about budgets and fiscal responsibility. Ugh. But where finances and family budgeting used to be considered ‘I wish I were an ostrich’ words, Sandra Hanna, co-founder and CEO of Smart Cookies has turned me around. In sharing her top 10 tips for saving money, she suggests throwing out the term ‘budget’ (too much pressure) and finding hidden ways to save money – making it into a game. She had so many tips I couldn’t write them fast enough. I was so inspired and challenged to take charge of my finances.
A Smart Cookie’s Tips on How to Save Money
1. Sell things you don’t need. Along the ‘game’ lines, we’ve had a blast taking photos of items and being creative with descriptions. Taking interesting photos and using terms like “Pottery barn-style dresser” and “shabby chic” can get an item sold quickly.
2. Instead of heading to the store constantly, save time and money by using food you already have. Supercook.com and Myfridgefood.com will give you recipes with items that you have on hand (and may be craving…) The recipes they suggest may also get you out of a rut and help your kids to expand their culinary horizons.
3. Cardswap.ca is a gift card swap so that you can mail in a card you’ll never use and replace it with either cash or a card you need. While Aunt Betty was kind in giving you a giftcard for a movie, the extra dinner and childcare costs make it not so budget-friendly. Swap it for something like a new slowcooker – and save even more on comfort food.
4. Search for the hidden money in your household. This can be a fun one for children too. Turning off lights, using Tide Coldwater to save on hot water bills and making a fire instead of turning up the heat can be fun as well as rewarding. PGeveryday.ca is a great resource for coupons on products you use all the time and the PG Brand Sampler allows you to be sent free products to try.
5. Hair schools provide a great inexpensive alternative to pricy salons.
6. Rent, don’t buy expensive clothes. If you live in the US, Rent the Runway. Enter your zip code, size and event date up to 6 months in advance and our calendar will help find available dresses and accessories. You can book rentals for a 4 or 8 day period. In Canada? Rent Frock Repeat. They send you 2 sizes to ensure a good fit.
7. Choose your apps wisely. Purchasing apps can be fun – .99 cents here, $2.99 there. It can add up. Buy when they are free or on sale – with Freeappaday.com and Appminer.com and make sure you try the free versions first to ensure you will actually use them.
8. Apps like www.groceryzen.com allow you to eliminate impulse grocery buys by organizing your grocery list aisle by aisle. (And you won’t forget the milk).
9. Control your own Entertainment: Vimeo lets you live stream your apple TV and curate your own content.
10. Save your time (and money) by never waiting on hold with Gethuman.com
One of the key changes I have made is registering for Mint.com, an app and website that tracks my bank accounts, credit cards and budgets. (Why, exactly did I think $50/month was adequate for clothes? Funny joke..) It takes a bit of investigation to realize that your information and passwords are secure, but once you make the leap, you will never be in the dark about your spending patterns.
Sandra’s other inspiration? Respect moms. Whether you work outside the home or focus on saving money inside the home (or both), Moms are a very powerful bunch in the financial and budgeting world.
Jill Amery was given the opportunity to interview Sandra Hanna as part of the #PGMom program through Proctor and Gamble. As always, her opinions are her own.